His 17-course pop-up dinners are the stuff of legend and sell out within hours of being announced; South County housewives ditch their Pilates class for a chance at Nguyen’s cast-iron desserts and tempura Scotch eggs. Friends and family indulge in his homemade mead or tepache, while everyone can take home a bottle of his Viet-Mex hot sauce, equal parts tangy and chingón. Instagram followers get daily lessons of Nguyen’s foraging adventures in the Orange County wilderness. And the Break of Dawn owner has a heart: When Hurricane Harvey wrecked Houston, Nguyen immediately announced a fundraiser, with all funds going to a legit nonprofit that will spend the money to feed folks immediately. All humans should aspire to be like Nguyen, and all chefs should try to pal up with him to learn even a little bit. And Nguyen? He just does him.
Break of Dawn, 24291 Avenida de la Carlota, Ste. P-4, Laguna Hills, (949) 587-9418; breakofdawnrestaurant.com.